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Full text of "Forest preservation in Canada"

FOREST PRESERVATION IN CANADA. 

Each of the Provinces comprising the Dominion of Canada, except- 
ing Manitoba, has control of its own crown lands, and hence it is 
difficult to secure one uniform series of measures for the protection of 
the timber upon these crown lands. Circumstances are different in 
each Province. In British Columbia, the forests are largely yet un- 
touched, excepting along the Pacific Coast, and there is thus the 
opportunity still there of carefully conserving the forests, so that they 
may be a continued source of revenue, instead of allowing fires and 
the lumberman's axe to have unrestricted sway among them. Between 
the Rocky Mountains and the boundaries of Ontario it is rather a 
question of how far forests are to be created, as the country is chiefly 
open prairie. In Ontario and Quebec, along the streams which fall 
into the Georgian Bay, and at the sources of the Ottawa, St. Maurice 
and other great rivers and their tributaries, there is still a considerable 
area of White and Red Pine, but the trees are of diminished size com- 
pared with the splendid trunks common on the Ottawa twenty years 
ago. The lumbermen are fast approaching the northern limits of the 
growth of these trees. In Ontario, the provincial finances are in good 
condition, and the Government there, can, if it will, readily curtail 
its revenues from timber and timber limits, in order to prevent waste 
of its crown lands, and to preserve them in condition to yield 
revenues to the Government and profit to the lumbermen who may 
work them in years in the future. In the Province of Quebec there 
is more difficulty in dealing with the question, as the Province has a 
very heavy funded debt, the interest of which, in addition to ordinary 
expenditure, has had to be provided for, and as a consequence every 



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possible source of revenue has been made available to the utmost. 
New Brunswick has still some forests of Pine and Spruce, but the 
area is, compared with the Ontario and Quebec forests, relatively 
small, whilst Nova Scotia has, on the whole, but little timber of good 
merchantable size left, and has correspondingly less interest in the 
question of forest preservation. The crown lands are under Dominion 
control only in Manitoba and the North- West Territories, and some 
steps have been taken to preserve what timber exists there. 

As is well known, the system prevails in Canada of leasing from 
year to year large areas of crown lands under the name of timber 
berths or timber limits, at an annual rental per square mile. Though 
the lease is from year to year, yet by custom it is understood that as 
long as the rent is paid, the lessee may continue in possession 
indefinitely until he has cut off all the timber he desires. Sometimes 
the holder is merely a speculator ; at other times he is a lumberman, 
who is keeping the limits in reserve for future working, and thus, 
frequently, large unworked areas are tied up from year to year by 
parties who have a quasi right to continue this under the original 
lease. This makes it difficult to apply new regulations to limits 
already under lease. Sections of country not yet under lease — and 
considerable new tracts have in Ontario been rendered accessible by 
the Canadian Pacific Railway — are in a different position, and govern- 
ments can readily lay down rules for their future working as timber 
limits. 

Germany, France, Sweden and India have their forests cared for 
under more or less stringent regulations, and even the small Province 
of Cape Colony in South Africa has its Forestry Department, under 
Government control, and is doing a good work that should put us to 
shame. The forests there are being arranged for scientific working, 
the fundamental principle being, the conservator says, that the cut- 
ting shall not exceed the growth. Why should we in America with 
a splendid heritage in the pine forests of Maine, Quebec, Ontario, 
Michigan and Wisconsin have been so prodigal and reckless, and 
have shown so little farsightedness, as to have gone on from year to 
year for half a century past allowing this heritage to be diminished 
gradually in value without even an attempt to prevent it ! How 
often are we blind to the future ! The Cape Colony Report for 1884 
very well puts it that the policy should be pursued of setting our 



faces against forest destruction as firmly as other moral evils are 
faced. Further than this, with us here, each State and each Province 
has an interest in the action which its neighbouring State or Province 
takes or neglects to take on this question. Our great rivers have 
often their fountain heads, or the fountain heads of their tributaries, 
in one or more States or Provinces, and then course their way to the 
great lakes, or the sea, through other States or Provinces. Have not 
those whose lands along the route are watered by these rivers, the 
cities, towns and villages which are scattered along their banks, and 
the public which makes use of the steamboats and other craft which 
ply upon their surface, an undeniable interest in seeing that these 
waterways are not impaired by the burning or cutting away of the 
forests at these fountain heads? It is the province of every State to 
legislate for itself, or to withhold legislation, but in this case, the 
neighbouring States have a clear right to ask that their waterways 
and water supplies shall not be impaired or cut off by its neglect to 
provide proper legislation or proper oversight. 

The remedial measures which I would suggest with a view to the 
preservation and renewal of our forests are in some respects equally 
applicable to the United States and to Canada. 

The leases of timber areas I would restrict to definite periods of 
five or at most seven years, and when the lease expired, the particular 
area covered by it should have a rest of say twenty-five years, to allow 
of the young trees attaining merchantable value. The effect of this 
would be to largely check speculation in timber limits, and would 
give ample time to bona fide lumbermen to get out all large sized 
timber. It should be incumbent on each lessee to show his bona 
fides by erecting a mill within a given time either at or convenient to 
the limits, unless he has a special permit to work the limits for square 
timber. 

The timber limits themselves should be restricted in size to about 
fifty square miles. This is now done in Manitoba by the Dominion 
Government. The parcelling out of the timber country into definite, 
limited areas would enable each Government to more systematically 
carry out the system of alternate leases and rests for the forests. 

The production of square timber should be discouraged, on account 
of the great waste of material in forming the square log, and because 
of the additional food for forest fires which this waste material 
creates. 



The cutting on crown lands of trees under twelve indies at the 
stump should be punishable by a heavy fine, which would be easily 
collectable at the mills when the drives of logs come down after the 
spring freshets. This would have the effect of preserving the younger 
trees until they attained a merchantable size. 

The starting of forest fires should be made criminal. Nineteen- 
twentieths of the forest fires are preventible. There is no reason why 
camp fires should not be put out, and the knowledge that to allow 
them to spread was punished by imprisonment, would quickly make 
camp parties careful, more especially if every member of each party 
■were made responsible. 

Not only in the forests which have been cut over by the lumber- 
men, but wherever fires have swept through areas of crown lands not 
specially suitable or available for settlement, resowing or replanting 
should take place. Where burned areas are left to themselves, trees 
of a less desirable kind almost invariably spring up. How to effect 
this resowing and replanting economically is a question of some 
importance. It can be done in part by the forest rangers hereafter 
referred to, but, I think, that as a condition of every lease of timber 
limits, it should be made incumbent on the lessee either to pay a 
given sum per square mile of territory included in his lease towards 
the expenses of the Forestry Department of the Government, or that 
he should actually plant and care for a young tree for every trunk he 
fells. This would not be an expensive proceeding. It would involve 
the cultivation of one or perhaps two acres as a forest nursery, and 
the subsequent setting out of the young trees, and to this might be 
added the duty of collecting and sowing through the forest, of seeds 
of desirable kinds of trees. When it is remembered that each forester 
in Cape Colony is expected, without assistance, to annually raise 
40,000 young trees, and that his duties involve the transplanting of 
these to the burned and other districts within his section, it will be 
observed that the task thus proposed to be imposed on the American 
lumberman is not formidable. 

Lastly, each Government, in the case of Provinces still possessing 
forest areas of importance, should organize a Forestry Department in 
connection with the management of its crown lands. The objects of 
the Department would be : 

First. The general preservation of the forests from fires, and from 
deterioration by improper working. 



... The replanting of the crown forests where burned or 
asted. 

Third. The encouragement of tree-planting by land owners gen- 
erally, and the dissemination of information about trees and tree 
culture. 

There should be a Superintendent of Woods and Forests, whose 
duties should be organization, general supervision and frequent inspec- 
tion. Under him would be forest rangers or foresters, who would 
have given districts in which they would reside, and for the oversight 
of which they would be responsible : — their duties being to prevent 
encroachment by lumbermen on unleased crown lands ; to see that 
small trees were not cut ; to investigate the cause of every fire hap- 
pening within their districts, and punish the guilty parties, for which 
purpose they should have certain magisterial powers ; to raise in a 
small plantation young trees for replanting the burned districts ; and 
to collect and sow the seeds of desirable kinds of trees. Each 
forester would probably require the aid of an assistant. The adminis- 
tration of the department need not be expensive, and whilst the 
expense could be readily met by a small tax per square mile of timber 
limits under lease, or per thousand feet of lumber sawn, or cubic feet 
of square timber produced, the saving annually of timber trees from 
forest fires would alone pay the cost of the department for many years. 

Montreal, Oct., 1885.